Minister of Health Hon. Jamell Robinson has confirmed that the impending COVID-19 regulations announced on August 14, requiring all tourists over 16 to the Turks and Caicos Islands to be fully vaccinated will stand, clearing up some level of confusion as to whether the requirements would be put on hold.
The minister confirmed the restrictions in a terse message to NewslineTCI today.
“Good afternoon, the travel requirements for visitors are still in place as of September 1st,” he stated.
The only change is that travelers will have to prove their vaccination by providing either digital or paper copy.
Earlier this month, Minister Robinson, during a news conference, announced a string of new restrictions scheduled to come on stream on September 1.
He outlined that all visitors aged 16 and above should be fully vaccinated on arrival in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This means that visitors will only be allowed inside the country 14 days after they have gotten their second vaccine dose.
He noted further that all fully vaccinated tourists tested positive while on vacation in the Turks and Caicos Islands are to self-isolate at their own expense for a period of 10 days and undergo a COVID-19 mandatory test on day seven prior to being released.
Last week, the Tourist Board reported that it was ‘retracting the Turks and Caicos Islands updates on TCI Assured Travel Requirement’, earlier announced. This led to some level of confusion as to when the protocols would be announced.
INDUSTRY COULD LOSE CLOSE TO $100-MILLION
The decision to stick with the requirements has not gone down well with the Turks and Caicos Islands Chamber of Commerce. Following to minister’s announcement, the Chamber conducted an analysis of the implications that such policy would have on the tourism industry.
In the documented analysis, the Chamber forecast that the tourism industry would lose $95,962,623 or 8 percent of its GDP. The business sector lobby group pointed out that the average tourist spends $1,838.
The Chamber, in its analysis, points to several scenarios as to why the TCI stood to lose millions had the new rules taken effect.
It noted that unvaccinated young people are most likely to travel at this time, as the older folk who are noted to travel in better times have opted to stay at home.
It further indicated that in the U.S., 62 percent of adults over 18 are fully vaccinated, adding that 82 percent of persons 65 to 74 are vaccinated, along with 78 percent of persons 75-plus.
It further pointed out that persons over 65 represent more than 23 percent of the total US population, and unfortunately these persons are traveling at vastly lower rates than younger persons. This is due to the increased risk of COVID-19 in elderly persons, and as such they have postponed trips.
Only 50 percent of persons 25 to 39 are fully vaccinated in the United States.
“Turks and Caicos is a popular destination for families, but as of 13 August 2021, only 42.1 percent of persons 16-17 in the U.S. were fully-vaccinated,” the Chamber pointed out.
The Chamber said the data is not much better for those 18 to 24, where it is only 45.2 percent. As a result, the majority of persons travelling with children who are 16 to 24 will be unable to vacation in the Turks and Caicos.
Another scenario cited by the Chamber is what it referred to as mixed-vaccination family status.
“This is difficult to quantify, and reliable statistics cannot be sourced. In a nutshell, the issue is that because all persons in a travel group must be vaccinated, simply having one person who can’t, means that the entire group is likely to cancel,” the Chamber analyzed.
“Essentially, it’s not accurate to simply look at the overall vaccination rate of adults 18-plus, which is 62 percent, and assume that 62 percent of U.S. persons are eligible to visit. Due to the fact that some will have one person in their group/family who is not fully-vaccinated, the 62 percent figure is very much a ‘best case’ scenario, and real-world statics will depress this eligible number of travelers.”
The Chamber concluded that a vaccine requirement for tourists would drastically reduce the number of persons eligible to visit the Turks and Caicos.
“Our estimates are that only about 55% of potential tourists will be eligible to visit. Unfortunately, vaccine rollout in the US is slowing. In the last 30 days, the number of fully vaccinated persons (as a percentage of overall US population), only rose from 49 percent to 51 percent. The estimated impact of this policy is that there will be 52,210 fewer tourists for the September to December 2021 tourism period,” it noted.